07/16/2013 08:10 EDT | Updated 09/15/2013 05:12 EDT

Irish scuba diver survives eel bite to the face

An experienced scuba diver who was bitten in the face by a two-metre long eel while diving off the coast of Ireland this month says the animal “just hit me out of the blue.”

In an interview with CBC radio host Rick MacInnis-Rae, 48-year-old diver Jimmy Griffin described being “shaken like a rag doll” as a massive conger eel latched on to his left cheek, knocking the regulator – required to breath underwater – out of his mouth.

The incident happened in Killary Harbour on the west coast of Ireland when Griffin, fresh off a two-year hiatus from diving, joined friends for a daytime dive in the popular scuba spot.

Shortly after entering the water, at a depth of about 25 metres, Griffin felt like he was being punched.

"Suddenly I got hit with what felt like a really strong punch in the face,” Griffin said. But it wasn’t a fist that struck him, it was a carnivorous eel “about the width of a human thigh,” he said.

“It was wriggling and twisting. It was horrible.”

It wasn’t until the eel detached itself from his cheek that Griffin realized he was in serious trouble. After getting the regulator back into his mouth, he noticed bubbles leaking out of the gash it left in his cheek.

“We needed to decompress for seven or eight minutes. My dive buddy didn’t notice the blood until we got closer to the service,” Griffin said.

Now, with his face on the mend after 20 stitches and a skin graft, Griffin says he’ll get back in the water.

“In Ireland, we have a saying: you can choose to laugh or choose to cry.”

It's like getting nipped by a dog, Griffin said. “Would you stop walking down the street?”